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2021 GCSE grades could be even more generous

January 04, 2021

Original Article:

Next year’s GCSE and A-level grades may need to be even more "generous" than those in this summer’s unmoderated results if they are to be fair to the students involved, senior figures within the exams sector have told Tes.

Their views are important as they are involved in the discussions over the increasingly urgent need to fix arrangements for next summer’s exams when so much lesson time has already been lost.

They argue that even if those who experienced significant disruption due to the pandemic, especially in areas of severe lockdown, get results in line with last year’s generous final grades, the cohort would effectively be penalised.

But they also acknowledge that other variables could be changed to help 2021 candidates such as even more “optionality” in the exams themselves or greater flexibility over entry requirements from universities and sixth-form colleges.

GCSEs and A levels 2021: Fair grades for all?

“Holistically more generous grading has got to be in the mix,” one senior exams sector source told Tes. “Because if you look at 2020, those students had an advantage [in grades] in the end.

“And then you go into 2021 and those kids will have lost out on months of education. They are definitely at a disadvantage relative to 2020 and we need to answer that question.

“But it’s about a package, a holistic solution. If we did something more in exams to address optionality then that might mean we would have to do less on being generous with grading standards.”  

However, another source close to the discussions suggested to Tes that grading standards for 2021 would be pitched between 2019 and 2020 to ensure that public faith in the exams system and students' morale was not adversely affected.

"I think they'll go halfway between 2019 and 2020. Because 2020 was obviously unexpectedly inflated and the psychology of exam results matters a great deal. Because, after all, it was the reaction of the public as well as schools that caused politicians to abandon their system," they said. 

"With a year group that has had a rough time, I guess they would be bound to be generous with the grading and that means fixing it somewhere in between 2019 and 2020.”

Exam sector sources have also suggested that special consideration will be used to mitigate disadvantage for students who have lost out on weeks of learning owing to local lockdowns.

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